Archives: The Journal of the British Records Association

BOOK REVIEWS

Archives: The Journal of the British Records Association (2009), 34, (121), 49–87.

Abstract

BOOK REVIEWS Edited by Professor William Gibson Peter Marcan, The Greater London History and Heritage Handbook. London: Peter Marcan Publications. 2007. Pp vii+ 138. £25. ISBN 9781871811193. The growth of interest in local history as well as family histories, the house in which you live as well as the surrounding area, as well as the heritage assets of London has been of great significance in recent years. Increasingly professional and amateur historians, as well as subject specialist from other disciplines, are using the resources of local libraries, archives, as well as private organisations to unlock more about our history, some of which has been hidden for years. Marcan’s compilation has 1243 entries ranging from large organisations to quite small ones. But this also ref lects the rich diversity and mix of information about London, one of the great global cities. As someone who lives in Ealing, west London, my first inclination was to ascertain the resources listed in the entries about Ealing that I might wish to research. Regrettably the entries indicate who are the members of staff and opening hours to access local studies records; the publications that the library or local history group might sell; or the listings of recent magazines or journals. The entries do not provide an overview of the holdings within a local history centre such as where the strengths are within the collection or there has been collecting in detail. Marcan does not provide a description of the range and scope of these archival holdings. It is possible that you might be able to access these local studies collections online in terms of identifying particular books or records and then personally visiting the library to undertake research within the centre. Some of the entries are quite restricted. For example the entry for Ealing Studios simply indicates that it has been in operation since 1930 and its current use. There is no information about what records and files were created at the Ealing Studios and, if they still exist, where they might be found and the range of information they might record. The entry for the London Metropolitan Archives provides slightly more information about the major groupings of records, but this information can be found quite easily by checking the LMA’s web site. This also applies to the major holdings, such as the National Archives, as well as borough archives and local study centres. While this omission is a missed opportunity, it would be a herculean task to describe in more depth the holdings of the major museums, archives and libraries as they relate to London. It is also feasible that libraries outside London hold material relating to the capital. The entries do list other publications that might provide historians and enthusiasts to undertake more research into particular aspects of the city’s history and heritage. The handbook is user-friendly with a key word index. The book is divided into 6 sections – 5 relating to the holdings of the central, north, east, south and west London boroughs, with the final section devoted to London wide or national organisations that are based London. While these guides serve a useful and valuable purpose in their soft cover format, it is likely that the reader might choose to seek more information from the online resources that are being generated by libraries, archives and museums. This does allow for information to be corrected, updated and the content to be expanded in years to come. This is not to detract from the value and use of this publication; however Mr Marcan might wish to consider moving to an online publication format that can be Archives - October 2009.indb 49 18/01/2010 12:33:53

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